By Paul W Dennis
Wycliffe Bible Translators, an international non profit organisation dedicated to translating the Bible for every language group that needs it has completed its 1,000th full translation of the Bible.
This was achieved with the unveiling of the Keliko Bible in South Sudan. ‘Keliko’ is a Central Sudanic language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.
The Christian post announced that the major milestone was made in August, though accounts for only 10 percent of the world’s languages.
Some of the remaining 90 percent have incomplete translated Bibles at various stages, but an ambitious project is looking to have Bible translation efforts on the way in every last language of the world by 2025.
The Organisation said: “With the Keliko Bible, now roughly 10 percent of all the world’s languages have a completed Bible. Close to 2,500 other languages have translations underway, but as many as 1,600 languages, or 22 percent, have no translated Scripture at all.”
Wycliffe’s “Vision 2025” goal of having all 7,000 of the world’s languages see a Bible translation project underway by the year 2025 faces notable challenges, however, with close to 45 percent of the world’s languages set to go extinct by the end of the century because they lack a written form.
Still, technology has made the translation process faster and more efficient. As the Organisation’s Chief Operations Officer Russ Hersman told CP, it took the organization 50 years to reach the 500 translation milestone in 2001, but only 17 years to complete the next 500.
“This acceleration – cutting decades-long translation projects down to a matter of years – is largely the result of a combination of the growth of the Church in the South and the East coupled with technological advancements that have made the process of translation, as well as broader communication and travel, much faster,” he said.
“The unprecedented growth of local leadership and national translators involved and spearheading projects, working collaboratively with neighboring communities and similar language groups, accelerates the translation work.”
Hersman revealed that the largest cluster of languages that do not have any Scripture at all are in the South Pacific islands, where close to 1,300 different languages in total are spoken. Papua New Guinea, for instance, has more than 800 languages alone.
“The biggest challenge is sheer volume, but geographic accessibility and — in some cases — lack of a written alphabet are significant obstacles as well. That’s part of what the community-based approach is meant to address,” he explained.
“By bringing together groups of people who speak different but similar languages, they can collaborate on translation projects, learning from each other and building community while speeding up the process.”
Wycliffe Bible Translators has faced different challenges in its Vision 2025 goal, including dealing with unfriendly governments and other world religions that oppose Bible translation projects.
“Sometimes the difficulties are in places that are thought to be open to Bible translation, but due to civil unrest in the country, it becomes a dangerous environment for anyone caught between the warring parties,” Hersman noted.
“We desire that all people have access to God’s Word, and we trust in God and his sovereignty over all creation, even in the face of persecution, instability and danger.”
The war-torn South Sudan, the location of the 1,000th completed Bible project, is one such example.
“The Keliko people of South Sudan have endured significant hardship as a result of the unrest in their region. In the 1980s and 1990s the civil war in south Sudan made it impossible for the community to stay in place. Many Keliko sought refuge in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Mr Russ Hersman, Wycliffe USA’s COO explained.
“After the peace was signed with the government of Sudan, people started returning to their homeland. However, in 2013 ethnic fighting broke out in the world’s newest nation, South Sudan. Even though the Keliko were not involved in that ethnic fighting, the fighting still spread and effected the Keliko homeland. A majority of the Keliko again fled as refugees in Uganda and DRC,” he added.